(a project of Mirravision Trust, Financed by Auroshakti Foundation)

Chapter I
Chapter II - Part 1
Chapter II - Part 2
Chapter II - Part 3
Chapter II - Part 4
Chapter III - Part 1
Chapter III - Part 2
Chapter III - Part 3
Chapter III - Part 4
Chapter III - Part 5
Chapter III - Part 6
Chapter IV - Part 1
Chapter IV - Part 2
Chapter IV - Part 3
Chapter IV - Part 4
Chapter V-Part 1
Chapter V - Part 2
Chapter V - Part 3
Chapter V - Part 4
Chapter V - Part 5
Chapter VI - Part 1
Chapter VI - Part 2
Chapter VI - Part 3
Chapter VI - Part 4
Chapter VI - Part 5
Chapter VII - Part 1
Chapter VII - Part 2
Chapter VII - Part 3
Chapter VII - Part 4
Chapter VII - Part 5
Chapter VIII - Part 1
Chapter VIII - Part 2
Chapter VIII - Part 3
Chapter VIII - Part 4
Chapter IX - Part 1
Chapter IX - Part 2
Chapter X - Part 1
Chapter X - Part 2
Chapter X - Part 3
Chapter X - Part 4
Chapter X - Part 5
Chapter X - Part 6
Chapter XI - Part 1
Chapter XI - Part 2
Chapter XI - Part 3
Chapter XI - Part 4
Chapter XII - Part 1
Chapter XII - Part 2
Chapter XII - Part 3
Chapter XII - Part 4
Chapter XII - Part 5
Chapter XIII - Part 1
Chapter XIII - Part 2
Chapter XIV - Part 1
Chapter XIV - Part 2
Chapter XIV - Part 3
Chapter XIV - Part 4
Chapter XIV - Part 5
Chapter XV - Part 1
Chapter XV - Part 2
Chapter XV - Part 3
Chapter XV - Part 4
Chapter XV - Part 5
Chapter XV - Part 6
Chapter XV - Part 7
Chapter XV - Part 8
Chapter XV - Part 9
Chapter XVI - Part 1
Chapter XVI - Part 2
Chapter XVI - Part 3
Chapter XVI - Part 4
Chapter XVI - Part 5
Chapter XVI - Part 6
Chapter XVI - Part 7
Chapter XVI - Part 8
Chapter XVI - Part 9
Chapter XVI - Part 10
Chapter XVI - Part 11
Chapter XVI - Part 12
Chapter XVI - Part 13
Chapter XVII - Part 1
Chapter XVII - Part 2
Chapter XVII - Part 3
Chapter XVII - Part 4
Chapter XVIII - Part 1
Chapter XVIII - Part 2
Chapter XVIII - Part 3
Chapter XVIII - Part 4
Chapter XVIII - Part 5
Chapter XVIII - Part 6
Chapter XVIII - Part 7
Chapter XVIII - Part 8
Chapter XVIII - Part 9
Chapter XVIII - Part 10
Chapter XIX - Part 1
Chapter XIX - Part 2
Chapter XIX - Part 3
Chapter XIX - Part 4
Chapter XIX - Part 5
Chapter XIX - Part 6
Chapter XIX - Part 7
Chapter XX - Part 1
Chapter XX - Part 2
Chapter XX - Part 3
Chapter XX - Part 4
Chapter XX - Part 4
Chapter XXI - Part 1
Chapter XXI - Part 2
Chapter XXI - Part 3
Chapter XXI - Part 4
Chapter XXII - Part 1
Chapter XXII - Part 2
Chapter XXII - Part 3
Chapter XXII - Part 4
Chapter XXII - Part 5
Chapter XXII - Part 6
Chapter XXIII Part 1
Chapter XXIII Part 2
Chapter XXIII Part 3
Chapter XXIII Part 4
Chapter XXIII Part 5
Chapter XXIII Part 6
Chapter XXIII Part 7
Chapter XXIV Part 1
Chapter XXIV Part 2
Chapter XXIV Part 3
Chapter XXIV Part 4
Chapter XXIV Part 5
Chapter XXV Part 1
Chapter XXV Part 2
Chapter XXV Part 3
Chapter XXVI Part 1
Chapter XXVI Part 2
Chapter XXVI Part 3
Chapter XXVII Part 1
Chapter XXVII Part 2
Chapter XXVII Part 3
Chapter XXVIII Part 1
Chapter XXVIII Part 2
Chapter XXVIII Part 3
Chapter XXVIII Part 4
Chapter XXVIII Part 5
Chapter XXVIII Part 6
Chapter XXVIII Part 7
Chapter XXVIII Part 8
Book II, Chapter 1, Part I
Book II, Chapter 1, Part II
Book II, Chapter 1, Part III
Book II, Chapter 1, Part IV
Book II, Chapter 1, Part V
Book II, Chapter 2, Part I
Book II, Chapter 2, Part II
Book II, Chapter 2, Part III
Book II, Chapter 2, Part IV
Book II, Chapter 2, Part V
Book II, Chapter 2, Part VI
Book II, Chapter 2, Part VII
Book II, Chapter 2, Part VIII
Book II, Chapter 3, Part I
Book II, Chapter 3, Part II
Book II, Chapter 3, Part III
Book II, Chapter 3, Part IV
Book II, Chapter 3, Part V
Book II, Chapter 4, Part I
Book II, Chapter 4, Part II
Book II, Chapter 4, Part III
Book II, Chapter 5, Part I
Book II, Chapter 5, Part II
Book II, Chapter 5, Part III
Book II, Chapter 6, Part I
Book II, Chapter 6, Part II
Book II, Chapter 6, Part III
Book II, Chapter 7, Part I
Book II, Chapter 7, Part II
Book II, Chapter 8, Part I
Book II, Chapter 8, Part II
Book II, Chapter 9, Part I
Book II, Chapter 9, Part II
Book II, Chapter 10, Part I
Book II, Chapter 10, Part II
Book II, Chapter 10, Part III

A Psychological Approach to Sri Aurobindo's

The Life Divine

Book II, Chapter 10, Part III

Book II

The Knowledge and the Ignorance-The Spiritual Evolution

Chapter 10

Knowledge by Identity and Separative Knowledge

Part III

Knowledge of the cosmic consciousness

The nature of cosmic consciousness is such that it represents knowledge by identity "for the universal Spirit knows itself as the Self of all, knows all as itself and in itself, knows all nature as part of its nature". (CWSA 21-22, pg.562) However its knowledge is acquired in a two- fold way, one by identity and the other by self-exceeding. The one by identification is natural to the cosmic consciousness for there is an oneness and complete identity with all things. But the cosmic Spirit not only inhabits each thing and all things but is more than all - it self-exceeds everything and therefore there is "an inclusion and a penetration, an enveloping cognition of each thing and all things, a penetrating sense of vision of each thing and all things."(Ibid) The cosmic Spirit inhabits beings and objects but a separative power ensures that it is not imprisoned by them and the individualisation of objects and beings is not binding on the cosmic Being.

There is therefore a large universal identity in the cosmic consciousness containing smaller identities and any separative cognition must accept this double identity. If knowledge ensues by separation and contact, it is yet a separateness in identity and a contact in identity "for the object contained is part of the self of that which contains it".(Ibid) Only when a more drastic separativeness intervenes, this identity veils itself and projects a lesser knowledge.

The individual dynamo

We have been discussing the consciousness aspect of cosmic consciousness but there is an aspect of action, of cosmic energies. The cosmic energies move in masses, waves or currents, constituting and reconstituting objects, movements and happenings. "Each natural individual is a receptacle of these cosmic forces and a dynamo for their propagation". (Ibid, pg.563) This action is not available to our surface mind but known and felt by the inner being, more so when then the inner being enters the cosmic consciousness. But even then the active dynamic unification of the inner being with the flow of cosmic energies remains incomplete. The dynamo of the individuality regulates the cosmic forces, selects some and rejects others. If the dynamo dealt with the total energy and identified with it totally, then it would be of no further use and the individual would be an impersonal centre through which universal forces would flow unimpeded. This could happen in the case of a higher spiritualization. But ordinarily there is a feeling of oneness of the universalised subliminal or inner being with the cosmic self and secret self of all others. The translation of this sense of identity would result in a more powerful impact of the force of consciousness on things and persons; a capacity of "a dynamised intimate vision and feeling and other powers of cognition and action proper to this larger nature". (Ibid, pg. 564)

The two ends of the subliminal

However, though we get a greater knowledge at the subliminal or inner being, it is not the complete and original knowledge. To understand knowledge by identity in its purity we have to go to the two ends of the subliminal - below to the subconscient and above to the superconscient. In the subconscient everything is blind and the universalism is obscure in nature as seen in the mass consciousness or ill-formed and instinctive. Besides, in the subconscient all knowledge is a dark knowledge by identity as is there in the Inconscience. Above, the superconscient ranges reflect a free and luminous spiritual consciousness where the original power of knowledge can be traced and the difference between knowledge by identity and separative knowledge can be discerned.

Nature of consciousness

We are used to identify consciousness with our waking state, with certain operations of the mind and senses and when these are absent or quiescent, we think we are unconscious. But Sri Aurobindo's usage of the term consciousness extends from the Inconscience to the Superconscience and is present when apparently it is absorbed in pure existence or involved in comatose states. "It is intrinsic in being, self-existent, not abolished by quiescence, by inaction, by veiling or covering, by inert absorption or involution; it is there in the being, even when its state seems to be dreamless sleep or a blind trance or an annulment of awareness or an absence." (Ibid, pg.564-565)

And in the supreme timeless status of Reality, consciousness is "purely the self-awareness inherent in existence". (Ibid, pg.565) The Being is self-evident to itself, it does not need to look at itself through knowledge. If this is true of pure existence, it holds true for the primal All-Existence too. "Thus conscious of its timeless self-existence, the Spirit, the Being is aware in the same way, --intrinsically, absolutely, totally, without any need of a look or act of knowledge, because it is all, --of Time-Existence and of all that is in Time". (Ibid) This is the true awareness by identity. When applied to cosmic existence, it is the "self-evident automatic consciousness of the universe by the Spirit because it is everything and everything is its being". (Ibid)

The triple knowledge

But though awareness by identity is the stuff of the Spirit's self-knowledge, the Spirit, without modifying its eternal nature, departs to "a subordinate and simultaneous awareness by inclusion and by indwelling". (Ibid) The Self sees all existences in its one existence but at the same time knows them all by its indwelling selfness and knows all in them intrinsically without any operation of knowledge for knowledge here is not an act but a state, pure and inherent. At the base of all spiritual knowledge is the consciousness of identity. This is the basis of the triple knowledge in the Upanishads:

(a) "He who sees all existences in the Self" - This is knowledge by Inclusion,

(b) "He who sees the Self in all existences" -This is knowledge by Indwelling,

(c) "He in whom the Self has become all existences" -This is knowledge by Identity. (Ibid, pg.566)

But from this complexity arises another status which is not the first active element of the supreme consciousness. It is a status in which knowledge as known begins in a two-fold way; there is a state of consciousness and an act of knowing, the subject and object or "rather the subject-object in one" (Ibid) as there is yet no beginning of separative knowledge.

Spiritual Identical

When the subject draws a little back form itself as object, then certain tertiary powers of knowledge by identity take their first origin. What is intrinsically known from oneself is brought out and placed in self-space, "in an extended being of self-awareness, as an object of conceptual self-knowledge". (Ibid) There is a spiritual emotion, spiritual sense, intermingling of oneness with oneness, of delight of being with delight of being, of love joining with love in a supreme unity -- "they are the luminous self-aware substance of the Spiritual Identical made active on itself and in itself". (Ibid, pg.567) All is knowledge by identity and the Spirit "moves between sheer identity and a multiple identity, a delight of intimately differentiated oneness and an absorbed self-rapture."(Ibid)

Disappearance of the sense of Identity

Once the sense of identity is overpowered by the sense of differentiation, a separative knowledge ensues. Gradually the sense of identity diminishes and finally disappears. A sense of identity still prevails initially but goes behind the veil. The sense of identity is replaced by "a more or less intimate knowledge, mutual awareness or awareness of the object". (Ibid) At the beginning there is not an yet entire separateness but a mutuality -a retention of some power of original knowledge. The power of inclusion of an object is still there but the inclusion of a now externalized existence has to be made by an element of our self. The power of penetration is also there but does not lead to identity but carries the contents of the object to the subject. "There is still a mutual penetration and interchange between being and being, between consciousness and consciousness, waves of thought, of feeling, of energy of all kinds which may be a movement of sympathy and union or opposition and struggle.... Of all this action and interaction the knower by direct contact is aware and it is on this basis that he arranges his relations with the world around him. This is the origin of knowledge by direct contact of consciousness with its object, which is normal to our inner being but foreign or only imperfectly known to our surface nature". (Ibid, pg.568)

Towards subliminal knowledge

This first separative ignorance is still a play of knowledge but of a limited separative knowledge. While the complete knowledge by identity belongs to the highest hemisphere of existence, this knowledge by direct contact is the main feature of the highest supraphysical mental planes of consciousness that belong to the domain of the inner or subliminal being . After all, the subliminal self is a projection from the higher planes to meet the subconscience and inherits the characters of consciousness of its planes of origin. In contrast, the outer being is derived from the Inconscience. Therefore, "the more we open inwards, go inwards, live inwards, receive from within, the more we draw away from subjection to our inconscient origin and move towards all which is now superconscient to our ignorance". (Ibid, pg.569)


Ignorance becomes complete with entire separation of being from being but the direct contact of consciousness with consciousness still goes on secretly in its subliminal parts. But on the surface there is a complete separateness between the self and what becomes practically the not-self which cannot be directly known or mastered. Nature thus creates indirect means which are methods of an indirect knowledge - a contact by physical sense organs, a penetration of outside contacts through nerve-currents and a reaction of the mind to aid the physical organs. To these is added reason, intelligence and intuition which utilize data to get as much knowledge of the not-self or as much partial unity with it as feasible. These means are insufficient but this initial insufficiency is inherent in the very nature of our material existence.

The Inconscience

The Inconscience is the inverse reproduction of the Superconscience. All the modalities of the Superconscience have become their polar opposites as they become embedded and dormant in the Inconscience. "Yet is this involved consciousness still a concealed knowledge by identity; it carries in it the awareness of all the truths of existence hidden in its dark infinite and, when it acts and creates, --but it acts first as Energy and not as consciousness, --everything is arranged with the precision and perfection of an intrinsic knowledge". (Ibid, pg.570) One is reminded of the electrons and their rotation in their orbit in a perfect way! "In all material things reside a mute and involved Real-Idea, a substantial and self-effective intuition, an eyeless exact perception, an automatic intelligence..." (Ibid) All the state and actions are reminiscent of the same state and action in the Superconscient but translated in terms of self-darkness instead of the original self-light.


The Superconscience becomes involved in the Inconscience by a process of involution and then is slowly and meticulously released during evolution. But this release of consciousness is always accompanied by a subliminal presence. Actually, unknown to the surface being, the subliminal or inner being carries the occult power that regulates the contacts at the surface -it is "the intrinsic unorganized Awareness pervading the form but not yet enlightening it". (Ibid, pg.571) From outside, material objects like plants and minerals have powers and properties but as there are no means of communication they become active by conscious utilization by living beings but still their powers and influences are actually "forces of the Spirit emerging by Energy from its self-absorbed Inconscience". (Ibid)

At first, the crude mechanical action of the evolutionary energy seeks for "growth, light, air, life-room, a blind feeling out". (Ibid) The Inconscience is still dominant, works out everything by its secret knowledge by identity and has not worked out a conscious knowledge. With further development, the imprisoned consciousness struggles as a separated living being who strives to enter into conscious relation with the rest of the world-being. By interaction, the being of living matter "develops its consciousness, grows from inconscience or subconscience into a limited separative knowledge."(Ibid, pg.572)

Opening to the Subliminal

We see that the powers of the subliminal -"the original self-existent spiritual Awareness" (Ibid) emerge by degrees in a form that is diminished and tentative. First there arises a crude sense that gives away to precise sensations, then a life-mind perception manifests followed by a vibrating out of emotions and at last arises conception, thought and reason comprehending and apprehending the object. But all these are incomplete instruments, dependent on outward means, maimed by separative ignorance for consciousness cannot act directly on consciousness and there is no knowledge by identity. Only when the subliminal forces itself on the frontal mind that a rudimentary action of the deeper methods lift to the surface but such excursions are rare. "It is only by an opening to our inner being or an entry into it that a direct intimate awareness can be added to the outer indirect awareness. It is only by our awakening to our inmost soul or superconscient self that there can be a beginning of the spiritual knowledge with identity as its basis, its constituent power, its intrinsic substance." (Ibid)

Date of Update: 29-Jun-24

- By Dr. Soumitra Basu


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